3DME Active Ambient technology lets performance DJ SpinScott revolutionize his stage monitoring experience
May 28, 2022
A DJ booth with no headphones in sight? That’s the case for Spinscott when he takes the stage, thanks to his adoption of the ASI Audio Active Ambient™ 3DME IEM system. We talk with Spinscott about “Jungle Plus Drums,” his innovative stage monitoring approach and his passion for protecting his hearing for the future.
Who is Spinscott? An international performance DJ, producer and drummer, Spinscott creates music that bridges the gap between DJing and live instrumental performance with an innovative style of music-making that benefits from his creative applications of technology. A master of the “Golden Era” Jungle sound, Spinscott also incorporates modern Drum N Bass, Footwork, 160/Juke, and other genres into unique sets that are truly one of a kind.
His father was a DJ and drummer from the ‘60s through the ‘90s, and Spinscott followed in his father’s footsteps, beginning on drums at age four. As he began exploring the art of live DJing, his artistry evolved into his current touring “Jungle Plus Drums” style – live-performing entire tracks featuring 100% loop-free, sequence-free and quantize-free finger drumming in real time.
On the production front, Spinscott has charted digital & vinyl releases on labels including Elm Imprint, Dynamix Records, Faction Digital. His live music & production videos regularly generate over one million views across platforms. He has been active in the Jungle and Drum N Bass music scenes since the mid 1990’s, and has performed & headlined at countless underground parties, raves, clubs, festivals, and industry showcases.
How did you evolve as an artist from traditional DJing to your current style?
“Early on, I was mixing mostly 12-inch Jungle vinyl singles. I resisted switching fully to digital for a very long time. But eventually, the switch became a practical necessity, because, when you’re producing your own music, it can cost $60 to $70 for a single dubplate that has a very limited play life. But in the digital realm, you can just dub a WAV file to a thumb drive and mix it on your digital tools of choice. I got into samplers because it gave me a way to ‘finger drum,’ to add live, digitally performed percussion elements to my sets. Eventually, that refined and spun off further into a unique format – doing entire tracks, in real time, just with the sampler – I call it ‘Jungle Plus Drums.’ I tour with that, and it kind of bridges those two worlds for me – live music performance and DJing.”
Was there a particular turning point that led to finger drumming being the focus of your performances?
“About 2014 I bought my first [Akai] MPC5000 to produce some hip-hop tracks and some content for my online channels. I brought my background as a Junglist to those tracks: I took one of the traditional breaks and cut it up into individual drum samples and just started jamming out with that and made my first video. People had been doing similar things with hip-hop and other styles for many, many years, but I was pleased to find that my work struck a new chord by using elements from Jungle.”
“As everyone knows, with drum machines and samplers, you can create sequences or patterns of tracks and set them to play and then play something else over it. That’s a fantastic way to make music, though coming from an acoustic drumming background, I like playing everything as single hits as if I were playing the drums with drumsticks or playing hand drums. I’m triggering all one-shot sounds with my fingers, and then I’m playing the bassline with my thumbs.”
Your stage set up is notably headphone-free, what were your issues there??
“Most DJ equipment has evolved over time, but headphones have kind of remained the same. As you will hear from just about every DJ, there are some inherent challenges with using headphones together with live monitors. Any time someone comes to talk to you, you’ve got to take headphones off. But even when that’s not the case, you typically remove the right ear cup to be able to hear your monitor, which exposes your right ear to different, very high sound levels. You can’t mix to the program audio that’s coming from the dance floor, or at the very least there’s a delay. You have to have that speaker right there, near your ear. While you can just mix all in the headphones, that essentially isolates you from the crowd.”
Your solution is an IEM system that has built-in ambient microphones in the earpieces?
“The way I set it up, I've got the [ASI Audio] 3DME beltpack plugged into the headphone jack on the mixer and I've got the cue split coming through the left [earpiece] with the ambience turned down almost all the way on the left side – that's basically stimulating what traditional headphones do. On the right-hand side I've got the ambience turned up and I don't have the programming coming through that from the mixer; I'm listening to the speaker through the ambient mic.”
“I’ve explained the benefits of the 3DME to a lot of my colleagues in the music front. Some are skeptical and say, ‘Well, it sounds like there’s a lot going on.’ But it’s very simple once you’ve got it set up. It becomes a set-it-and-forget-it type of thing. That’s so important to any performer. You don’t want to focus on your equipment while you’re on stage; you want to focus on the music and get into that zone that we all crave. With the 3DME, you’re able to do that because you’re not fidgeting with the headphones and moving them around. We’ve all been on a bad stage or in a bad booth where you can’t hear, and it’s not very enjoyable. Being able to control everything through the earbuds solves all of that.”
“Another challenge that doing it this way solves is that typically on your headphone control on your mixer, it's just volume. You've got a full range monitor speaker that's pumping bass, midrange, treble. Different DJs mix to different instruments. I tend to always mix to the high hat – it's the most staccato instrument. It's usually the timekeeper, especially in 808 or electronic type music. With the 3DME, I reduce the bass on the [right channel] EQ. I don't have to turn up the volume as loud because I'm only hearing what I need to hear to mix. You can't do that with a traditional mixer.
How does that equate to hearing protection?
“You also have volume creep in these situations, like you have with most other music scenarios, where over time, throughout the set, you become accustomed to the volume. So you turn the volume up a little bit to maintain the energy, or to be able to hear. Some performers might believe that can-type headphones protect your hearing from the risks of loud monitors, but that’s not always a good solution because it’s easy to just crank your headphones up to overpower the monitors. With the 3DME, you manage the overall sound and the volume, and you’re more able to keep things at consistent levels. Everything is lower volume in my ears. As a result, you protect your hearing in both the short and long term.
Hearing protection is a big thing for me. I’ve gone through the whole path; I’ve done foam earplugs, using headphones on top. I’ve used custom filter earplugs, which are fantastic, but a very passive experience. The 3DME combines the best of both worlds. You’re getting the protection while you’re enhancing the experience by being able to hear everything. After shows, there’s no more ringing in the ears or being afraid to take a step outside without being able to hear the world.”
So your IEMs stay in your ears the whole performance?
“The whole time. The experience is very pleasing, not just while you’re mixing, but afterwards as well. If somebody does come up to speak to you, because of the ambient microphones, you don’t have to take your headphones off. It frees up your hands to do other things, especially in traditional DJing with two turntables or four CDs, where you need your hands for so much. From my perspective, if you are drumming or you are triggering samples and cues, it’s a game-changer.”
Also, I prefer to improvise through a set, and so I used to plan out only the first program that I play, always starting with the same one so that I could get used to the room. But now I don’t have to do that with the 3DME, because I’ve got presets in the EQ where, when I put the 3DME earpieces in, I start it up, I make maybe a couple of quick adjustments, and then every booth feels the same to me. It just creates this consistency that removes the room variables, so I am free to be creative and spontaneous from the very start of the set. There’s still a monitor, and I’m still listening to that monitor, but it’s through the ambient microphones and it’s much more controlled. This is a huge step forward in ensuring that nine out of 10 sets start off great from the first downbeat, instead of a situation where I’m spending the first several minutes finding a comfort zone.”
You were touring a lot prior to the pandemic, right?
“I was traveling in the UK where I’ve done many shows – larger festivals, like Boomtown Fair and Bang Face Weekender, and a bunch of other more electronic music-focused events. I also did the Up To Date festival in Poland and a few other ones outside of the UK. The UK is the motherland for Jungle. When I go out there, it’s something special. Being the first US-based artist to perform a showcase at the Drum & Bass Arena Awards in Brixton UK back in 2017 was truly an honor, as was doing a fresh virtual performance for the 2021 event.”
Meanwhile, you’ve had a presence on social media and elsewhere online since pre-pandemic days…
“A primary social media activity for me has been putting together YouTube and Facebook videos – two- or three-minute performances that are at the core of what I do with my live performances. Most Fridays at 6 [PM Eastern], I do a minimum one-hour live show on my Twitch channel. I go through aspects of Jungle, though sometimes it branches off into literally any other style of music imaginable. Twitch was a bit of a stand-in for touring during the pandemic lockdowns, and I’ve enjoyed doing it.”
How about recorded performances?
“I’ve done a handful of single releases. I’ve got two vinyl singles that I’ve put out and a host of digital content. I’ve done 81 distinct videos either on the Spinscott channel or through other affiliates and channels, including some high-profile content for Pioneer DJ, Melodics, and other DJ brands. It’s been a combination of music production, performance and video as well. So I’ve been staying busy, but I can’t wait to get back in front of live audiences on a regular basis and feel that energy.”